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March 23, 2013

Alabama basketball advances in NIT

TUSCALOOSA | It never felt like the other team had a chance.

Not against this team. Not in this building. Not with this crowd.

Even when Stanford closed to within five points late in the second half, this Alabama team answered with plays.

Playing in front of an energized Coleman Coliseum crowd, the University of Alabama basketball team advanced to the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament with a 66-54 victory over Stanford on Saturday afternoon.

Alabama (23-12) hosts Maryland (24-12) on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

From the tip, the game never seemed to be out of Alabama's control. That's how dominant the Crimson Tide effort was on both ends of the floor.

Stanford entered with first-team All-Pac-12 forward Dwight Powell averaging nearly a double-double per game. He left Tuscaloosa with two points.

"I thought from start to finish today our defense was outstanding," UA coach Anthony Grant said.

If the score seemed closer than the game actually was it was because of Stanford's 10 3-pointers. Outside of that, the Cardinal was outplayed in every phase.

"They were as advertised," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said, "a very good defensive team and really aggressive."

Four UA players scored in double digits, led by sophomore guard Levi Randolph's 16 points. Freshman Retin Obasohan continued his stellar play of late adding 14 points and six rebounds, and Trevor Releford and Nick Jacobs both scored 10.

Obashoan's previous high was 13 points in November 2012 against Lamar.

"Retin is a hard worker," Randolph said. "He comes in before practice and stays after. The more he's playing the better he's getting."

His improved play was evident when Stanford scored five consecutive points to pull within five with less than eight minutes remaining in the game. That's when Obasohan made his mark.

He drove the lane against Powell, a 6-foot-10 obstacle standing in front of the rim to convert a key layup that halted the Cardinal momentum.

Obasohan came in averaging just 3.6 points per game, but he's posted five of his top six scoring performances of the season in the last eight games.

"(The improvement) is due to my teammates and coaching staff," he said. "They drive me and push me every day in practice, and just tell me to get comfortable and go out there and play. That helps me a lot."

Grant said it's due to the work Obasohan has put in before and after practice.

"I can think of a couple of games in January maybe early February where he didn't play," Grant said. "He's the first guy up cheering for his teammates and happy in the locker room. And then when I'm leaving an hour later I hear a ball bouncing back in the practice gym and I peak my head in there and it's him in there getting his shots.

"He's just got a great mentality to how he approaches the game. The thing I told him is, 'It's always better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one, than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.' He's done that."

Reach Aaron Suttles at Aaron@TideSports.com or at 205-722-0229.

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